When it comes to skincare ingredients, differentiating what we need from what may just be an overhyped phase can sometimes be a bit mind-boggling. Squalane is the latest in a long line of trending beauty buzzwords, but is it worth the hype?
Whether you’re plagued with slick oily skin that can make a piece of blotting paper resemble the bottom of a pizza delivery box, or you’re left with skin tightness on a daily basis from the lack of moisture in your dry skin, there are certain standout skincare ingredients that are so effective they should be a part of everyone’s routines. Is squalane is one of them?
For a few years now, that collection of superstar ingredients has included many well-known skincare must-haves. From skin-quenching hyaluronic acid, to brightening vitamin C, to wrinkle-fighting retinol, and of course the healthy repertoire of skincare acids that keep different skin types fresh and exfoliated - we've invested in them all. But now there’s a new powerhouse ingredient that is set to join the ranks of the very best of skincare: squalane.
Over recent months, squalane has been popping up on the beauty shelves of even the savviest of skincare experts. It comes in the form of oil, cleansers, moisturisers or in targeted treatments. For many it’s become a non-negotiable part of many skincare routines.
"Squalane is a highly emollient ingredient that can help the absorption of other skin-beneficial ingredients, as well as form a protective barrier over the skin," says Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8.
Revealing why it has become such a popular ingredient in recent months, Daniel adds,"It can help to restore suppleness and flexibility to the skin, without being oil nor comedogenic.
"This ingredient also helps to lock in moisture and prolong hydration, making it a great addition to moisturisers and hydration serums."
So here’s what you need to know about how to use squalane and the best products to incorporate into your routine…
Everything you need to know about squalane
What is squalane?
Squalane is a shelf-stable version of naturally-occurring fat squalene.
Our bodies naturally produce squalene in the skin to hydrate and reinforce the skin barrier, but it diminishes as we age, just like skin-plumping collagen.
However, if we want to replenish what we’re losing as we get older, using squalene in its natural state wouldn’t actually do much, as it would oxidise and lose its benefits as soon as it’s exposed to air.
So for skincare purposes, the naturally-occurring fat is put through a hydrogenation process to turn it into the more stable, shelf-friendly squalane.
Where does squalane come from?
Look away Jaws-phobes, because generally high concentrations of squalene are found in the livers of sharks.
However, companies have now found a more ethical way to get hold of the moisture-boosting fat in the form of plants like olives and rice bran.
It can even come from plant oils deriving from amaranth seed, wheat germ and sugar cane, but the most popular source is the olive tree.
What does squalane do for your skin?
Squalane products work to reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier, locking in all of your hard-earned hydration.
It also works as an emollient, softening and soothing the skin without flaring up any irritation, so is great for people with dry or mature skin and delicate enough for anyone suffering with sensitive skin.
And because of its hydrating properties, something that’s important for all skin types, even those with oily or combination skin should be incorporating it into their routines.
Research even shows that it has been found to act as an antioxidant by fighting free radicals (the environmental properties that can damage the skin and lead to premature ageing).
How do you incorporate squalane into your routine?
Squalane can be used in the form of pure squalane oil, which you can slather on your face or body or even use to increase strength and shine in your hair.
There are also a bunch of high-performing products on the market that include the powerhouse ingredient, which you can add to your routine.
While squalene in the skin is thought to start depleting when people hit their 30s, any time is a good time to start using the superstar ingredient, especially if you a struggling with dry or dull skin.
Here’s how you can incorporate squalane into your skincare routine, no matter what your skin type…
Which Squalane products are best?
Best 100% Squalane to target very dry areas
If you want a mega shot of the star ingredient, 100% Squalane is the way to go.
You can incorporate the oil into your skincare routine like you would any other facial oil (so usually in the last step of your routine to lock in all the other thinner layers of skincare), or you can mix a couple of drops into your favourite serum or moisturiser.
The concentrated oil can also be used to target dry skin areas on the body, like elbows and knees, or anywhere else where your skin is yearning for some extra hydration.
And the ingredient works wonders on the locks too. Warm a few drops in the palm of your hands and then smooth onto wet or dry hair to tackle frizz and tame flyaways.
Best all-rounder: Biossance 100% Squalane Oil
This plant-based brand featuring a host of high-performing, sustainably-sourced squalane products has made waves in the beauty industry since it rose up the ranks earlier this year.
Use this anywhere on the body where you need an extra hit of hydration – it can even double up as a shaving oil for super soft pins.
Best for dry or mature skin: Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil
Another plant-derived favourite, this non-greasy facial oil works to boost elasticity in the skin and reduce hyper-pigmentation while leaving a healthy glow behind.
Best for dry hair & split ends: The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
Known for their science-backed and pocket friendly products, The Ordinary’s lightweight, plant-based option can be used on skin or hair for a shiny finish.
Best for dull, oily and combination skin: Peter Thomas Roth Oiless Oil 100% Purified Squalane
This light option derived from sugar cane penetrates deep into skin for intense hydration and quick nourishment.
Best Squalane products for eyes and lips
Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel
An ultra-hydrating refreshing gel that reduces puffiness and dark circles, while locking in moisture to prevent wrinkles and fine lines.
Gallinée Probiotic Eye Contour Cream
This gentle cream soothes puffy eyes with algae extract to reduce the appearance of fine lines and includes antioxidant vitamin E to protect from environmental stressors.
Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes
An ultra-light eye cream that targets pesky undereye issues and leaves a luminous glow in its wake.
Laura Mercier Hydrating Lip Balm
Olive-derived squalane delivers hydration and protection to this handbag-friendly lipstick-style lip balm.
Biossance Squalane + Rose Vegan Lip Balm
Not only does this velvety gel formula smell (and taste) like sweet Turkish delight, but it leaves lips full and hydrated for hours on end.
Best Squalane products for dry skin
Cleanser for dry skin
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser
A gentle formula that dissolves dirt and makeup. Plus the balm-like texture that transforms to an oil to nourish dry skin.
Moisturiser for dry skin
Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream
Full of Omega fatty acids to replenish lost fats in the skin, squalane to seal in moisture and ceramides to support the skin’s barrier, this cream is a cocktail of goodness for all skin types, but the added shots of hyaluronic acid and shea butter will work wonders on dry skin types.
Treatment for dry skin
Drunk Elephant Electrolyte Waterfacial Masque
A lovely mask to slather on at night time, this Sephora-favourite has achieved a superstar status for its quenching electrolyte formula, replenishing acids and ceramides.
It also contains strong antioxidants that rehydrate dehydrated skin and balance moisture levels.
Best Squalane products for oily/combination skin
Cleanser for oily skin
Anthony Exfoliating & Cleansing Bar
Performing both cleansing and exfoliating roles, this is a great way for oily skin types to delve into squalane.
Jojoba spheres will lift impurities and shift dead skin cells while squalane and coconut oil deliver moisture making sure that skin is not stripped of goodness.
Moisturiser for oily skin
Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
A light gel moisturiser that delivers the hydrating benefits of squalane while using probiotics to calm redness and Swiss garden cress to even skin tone.
Vichy Aqualia Volcano Drop Moisturiser
A quenching squalane-infused option which is lightweight enough for oily skin and won't leave behind a greasy residue.
Treatment for oily skin
Herbivore Lapis Balancing Facial Oil
Using an oil for oily skin may seem counter-intuitive but this nourishing beauty was designed especially to balance and decongest oily, combination and blemish-prone complexions.
With a blend of oils to hydrate and balance plus squalane to lock in moisture and protect against hyperpigmentation, this is a multi-tasking wonder.
Best Squalane products for dull skin
Cleanser for dull skin
PIXI Glow Mud Cleanser
PIXI’s Glow range has previously been swept off the shelves for its glow-inducing powers, courtesy of star ingredient brightening glycolic acid, and this deeply-cleansing exfoliating mud definitely lives up to its co-PIXI Glow stars.
It’ll exfoliate away dead skin cells to reveal fresh healthy and radiant skin underneath.
Moisturiser for dull skin
Goldfaden MD Vital Boost
Vitamin D aids squalane in strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier while hyaluronic acid plumps and gooseberry extract leaves a brightened glow.
Treatment for dull skin
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil
The addition of vitamin C in this nourishing oil brightens the skin and works to prevent discolouration as well as providing antioxidant protection against free radicals.
Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum
Infused with plant-based retinol alternative bakuchiol, this potent treatment targets fine lines and reduces the appearance of pores and dark spots with the use of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids).
Best Squalane products for sensitive skin
Cleanser for sensitive skin
KORRES Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser
Pre and probiotics gently lift away impurities and bacteria alongside soothing Greek yoghurt, which calms stressed areas, and Shea butter that conditions the skin.
Moisturiser for sensitive skin
Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Moisturiser
A combination of different vegan milks makes this ultra-rich cream hydrating, calming and comforting while plant-derived squalane protects against environmental agressors.
Treatment for sensitive skin
Biossance Squalane +Phyto-Retinol Serum
Another Biossance favourite, which pairs the star ingredient with retinol alternative bakuchiol – a great way for sensitive skin types to get retinol-esque benefits without the unwanted irritation.
Best Squalane products for mature skin
Cleanser for mature skin
Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
Dissolve away impurities without stripping hydration-starved skin of essential oils and moisture.
Moisturiser for mature skin
Paula’s Choice Barrier Repair Moisturiser
This creamy formula uses retinol to target signs of ageing and a blend of antioxidants to strengthen the skin.
Treatment for mature skin
Elemental Herbology Hyaluronic Booster Plus+ Intensive Moisture Serum
Olive-derived squalane works to stimulate cell renewal in this one while a formula of plant compounds, herbal extracts and essential oils alongside a moisture replenishment complex rehydrates skin leaving it plump and supple.
Caudalie VineActiv Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle Serum
Antioxidants in this lightweight treatment protect against stress and pollution while a patented complex aims to prevent wrinkles and signs of ageing.
Looks like the star ingredients of skincare just gained another team member!
Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home - so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows all the best places to splash your cash. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 after graduating from University of Leeds in 2014 with a BA in English and Spanish (which took her to Madrid for a fun Rioja and tapas-packed year). Aleesha has worked for woman&home since 2019, when she joined the team as their digital news writer. A year on the news team gained her quick and reactive writing skills and a love for breaking stories, invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first, an AOP awards nomination and the nickname ‘crazy watch lady’ after she became so obsessed with the royals that she followed breaking news alerts on her Apple Watch.
Before joining the woman&home team, Aleesha wrote for their sister site GoodtoKnow, where she covered celebrity news, health advice and where to snap up the cheapest lifestyle buys. With a background in beauty, Aleesha has also written for Stylist and Women’s Health where she developed an understanding into what makes a stellar product and which brands are worth paying attention to. She never leaves the house without a slick of lip balm and a good slathering of SPF, cannot live without an eyelash curler by her side and is always on the hunt for new lipsticks to add to her ‘Lipstick of the Day’ Instagram story highlight (and color-coordinated collection).
But it’s not just beauty buys Aleesha can help you with. Social media savviness, strong PR relationships and a need to stay in the know mean she’s all about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys too. She loves indulging in an interior craze (with a bedroom drowned in prints, plants and pink), is a regular visitor to the Missoma and Edge of Ember 'New In' pages and can’t resist the allure of a kitchen gadget—just ask her three coffee machines.
When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her sister, trying out new recipes, drinking wine with her bestie and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter amongst her friendship group. Oh and she makes the most of her Disney+ subscription by watching the Marvel films on repeat (definitely not just for Chris Evans...).
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